Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Crisis of Courage

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.... 

[God gives the Ten Commandments.]

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
Exodus 19:16-19 & 20:18-21

We have a crisis of courage in our churches today. Our pews are filled with men and women who are brave enough to serve in the military, to debate the finer points of law in a courtroom, and even to work in dangerous professions like building sky scrapers; but these very same men and women when it comes time to for them to pray publicly, share some truth from God's Word, or speak to someone about the good news of Jesus shrink from the challenge. We are simply not brave enough to do this. 

Many of us are like the Israelites standing at the foot of the mountain that day. When we get too close to God, or when He asks us to do things that are scary, we find ourselves unable to stand our ground before His mighty presence or before His calling on our lives; so we back away. It doesn't seem wrong to us because all those around us are doing the same. However there are a few very important exceptions. There are those among us who like Moses have the faith necessary to stand their ground before this great and terrible presence of God. These men and women like Moses are often called not merely to stand at the foot of the mountain, but to go beyond all human reason, beyond the bounds of courage, to climb the mountain. Like Moses, these men and women often ascend into the heart of the storm, toward the presence of God Himself. They embrace their greater calling, as we shrink in fear from our simple calling to stand at the foot of the mountain. These rare few like Moses follow far beyond what we dare do or are even called to do.

While it is true that we shouldn't go beyond our calling, we should always seek to say yes to God. Too many of us have drawn clear boundaries around what we are and are not willing to do for our faith. We may not have actually voiced these things to God, but those around us know. We use phrases like "evangelism just isn't my spiritual gift" to explain away why we feel it is okay to say no to God... to say no to the things He has commanded us to do. We say things like, "public speaking really terrifies me," or "I'm afraid I will mess up."  Too often these are simply excuses that we use to explain away why we are unwilling to go further. 

As I think about Moses ascending that mountain, I remind myself that this is the same Moses who once trembled before a burning bush  and tried to say no to God's call on his life (Exodus 3:1-4:17). Now, not too long after that incident, Moses stands before a burning mountain unfazed and somehow finds the courage to ascend into the storm of God's presence and calling on His life. This assures us that God can and will supply you with the courage you need to say yes. Still, it is your choice. My experience tells me that it is those who find the courage to say yes and walk into the heart of the storm who are closest to God in this life. Those who do choose to say no to God will one day have to answer for it when they stand before the judge, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus followed God not only to this earth, not only to suffering, but also to the cross. He didn't say no. How dare we? Walk into the storm of God's will for your life today. Say yes.   

For further reading...
  • Exodus 3:1-4:17- Read about Moses' first encounter with God and how he tried to convince God to send someone else.  
  • Exodus 33:7-34:8- Read about the amazing nearness that Moses was blessed to experience with God.

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